After running Friday’s prelim with a shoe untied, Sha’Carri Richardson was more prepared for the final of the women’s 100m at U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday night.
Richardson – sporting bright orange hair – won in 10.86 to earn a spot on her first Olympic team. Second and third-place finishers, Javianne Oliver and Teahna Daniels, also qualified for Tokyo.
Richardson, who is known for wearing different hair colors depending on her mood and goals, said her girlfriend helped her pick the color orange Saturday’s races. “She felt like [orange] was loud and encouraging and, honestly, dangerous,” Richardson said.
Moments after crossing the line, Richardson ran up into the stands to embrace her grandmother, Betty Harp.
“My grandmother is my heart, my grandmother is my superwoman,” Richardson said. “To be able to have her here, at the biggest meet of my life and being able to run up the steps and knowing that I’m an Olympian now… Honestly, that probably felt better than winning the race itself.”
Richardson – who was raised primarily by her grandmother and aunt – revealed after the race that her biological mother passed away last week.
Richardson said her feelings about her mother are “very sensitive and confusing,” before adding: “I am grateful for her giving me life… I will always love and respect her for that, and I definitely pay her respect every time I step on the track. I love her and I know she loves me.”
In Tokyo, Richardson could become the first American to win Olympic gold in the women’s 100m since 1996. So it’s a good time to learn her name. It’s pronounced “shuh-CARE-ee.” You can listen to her say it herself here:
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) June 19, 2021
Richardson, 21, first broke through two years ago. As a freshman at LSU, she won the women’s 100m at the 2019 NCAA Championships, breaking the collegiate record. She then turned pro, foregoing her remaining college eligibility.
But a few weeks later, she failed to make the U.S. team for the 2019 World Championships.
Earlier this year, Richardson put herself back on the map as a top contender for the Tokyo Olympics. At the Miramar Invite in April, she clocked 10.72 seconds to become the sixth fastest woman to ever run the event.
(While Richardson’s time in Saturday’s semifinal – 10.64 – was faster, it was wind-aided and thus not eligible for record purposes.)
Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in U.S. Olympic track & field history, has enjoyed watching Richardson’s breakthrough.
“Her energy is incredible. She has so much talent,” Felix said. “It’s really fun for all of us to be able to watch her and see that spirit of hers.”
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Five-time Olympic medalist Justin Gatlin, who trains in the same group as Richardson, described her as a “firecracker.”
“I’ve seen her practice, she’s capable of running 10.5,” Gatlin said. “She can definitely shock the world.”
The women’s 100m is shaping up to be one of the most exciting events at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
While Richardson looked like the clear gold medal favorite after her 10.72 in April, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the event – responded earlier this month by running 10.63, the fastest women’s 100m time in nearly 33 years. (The current women’s 100m world record is 10.49, set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.)
ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Meet the moms who have qualified for the U.S. team
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC